Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Sr. Jeana Visel

St. Meinrad, Indiana
2021

To support deeper study and experience of Byzantine iconography and theology by creating a moveable iconostasis that will aid the community's growth in knowledge and appreciation of the theology and spiritual practices of iconography and broaden its experience of Eastern expressions of worship.

Researcher(s): Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB 
Academic Discipline:  Spirituality/Eastern Christianity

Project Summary

The grant supports deeper study and experience of Byzantine iconography while engaging the service of a master iconographer to create an iconostasis for the school worship space at Saint Meinrad. The experience is helping the community broaden our experience of Catholic worship to include its Eastern as well as Western expressions. Iconographer Marek Czarnecki is on campus in March, April, September, and October, for a week each time, to work on the icons as an artist-in-residence. Students have been able to watch him work and to ask questions. He also is giving a lecture during each visit. In July, Sr. Jeana Visel and Fr. Denis Robinson will go to Marek’s studio in Connecticut for a week of more focused tutorial in ecclesial arts. 

What questions about worship and your discipline will be guiding your project?

The underlying question guiding my project is how increased awareness of the process of creating icons and their theology can create greater appreciation for Eastern-style Byzantine liturgy among Roman-rite Catholics. For my own development as an iconographer, in this process I am asking our iconographer technical questions about how to paint icons from the deesis row of an iconostasis, a more complex intermediate iconographer skill. 

How do you envision this project will strengthen the worship life of congregations?

Already the project is inviting students, faculty, and others to be more aware of the liturgical images that are part of our worship. Once these particular images are completed and put to use in worship, I imagine engagement in the liturgy will be higher than before. 

What do you expect might be your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?

My greatest challenge thus far has been budget limits. Since the pandemic, prices for car rentals and flights have almost doubled. Construction costs that go beyond the grant amount are part of this project; fundraising to cover these is a challenge, as the school already is focused on a capital campaign for other priorities. One challenging opportunity that has emerged: I was invited to make use of pieces from a recently-closed Roman-Catholic Church, and got to know another community. 

What do you hope to learn from the Grants Event and other grant recipients?

I would be happy to hear about what other grant recipients are doing, particularly with projects involving the arts and arts education. I would like to learn more about supplemental fundraising skills.